Mind the (investment) gap

Anna-Sophie Hartvigsen, co-founder of the financial ed-tech platform aimed at women, Female Invest

mind-the-gap-ethnicity-pay-gap-featuredAll over the world, women are falling financially behind. They earn less, save less and are less likely to invest their money.

Are these trends the result of a lack of skill or ambition among women, or do other barriers persist?

The gender divide among private investors

In the UK, women significantly outnumber men in higher education. This is seen within nearly all degree subjects, and should in theory have led to a situation where women are improving their financial positions. This is supported by IFS research, which has found that around 80% of graduates will see their lifetime earnings improved by going to university, although it should be noted that men see more benefits than women.

Unfortunately, the reality is very different - and this is evident when it comes to investing. Women are falling behind. Only 23% of women actively invest their savings and men own the majority of the stock market.

The fact that women invest less than men inevitably raises the question: “Are men better investors?”. The answer to this question is a clear-cut “no”. Several studies conclude that women investing in stocks are better at it than men. This is seen in the UK, where a large study by Warwick Business School found that female investors achieve higher returns and are better at sticking to a long-term investing strategy.

Based on this data, British female investors appear to hold a significant amount of unlocked potential. This is the motivation behind our educational platform, Female Invest. Our goal is to close the financial gender gap by educating women on investing and personal finance. This work is rooted in the belief that most people can learn to invest their money – if they start by investing their time.

The concept has proven successful, and in less than two years, Female Invest has become Europe's largest financial educator for women. What we’ve quickly learnt is that the shortage of female investors is rooted in a lack of role models, confidence and engaging educational tools, rather than an absence of skills and interest.

Our mission is to provide women with the tools they need to make personal investments, bolstering their personal finances, but also to encourage more women to choose a career in finance, too.

The financial industry is still failing women

The lack of female investors is also seen in the British financial industry, where women in senior positions are a rare sight. In recent years, this topic has gained increasing attention from the media and the financial industry more broadly. However, there is still a long way to go. A recent report on women in financial services has shown that, although progress is being made, women are still significantly underrepresented in the financial industry - and that £700 million could be made by improving female representation and better serving female customers. This shows that the problem of unequal representation and participation in financial markets cannot be solved with good intentions alone.

Companies must acknowledge and directly address (un)conscious bias in recruitment and promotion processes. Allowing women to succeed in the financial industry should not only be done because it is the right thing to do. It should also be done, because research consistently shows that diversity fosters creativity and ignites productivity.

No easy solutions

There are no easy solutions to the lack of female representation and participation in financial markets - be that women working in the financial industry, or women making private investments. With that said, the fact remains that the current lack of female-led investments negatively impacts individuals, companies and society as a whole. Therefore, we should stop contemplating whether we can afford to spend more resources on improving female representation and participation in financial markets, and start contemplating whether we can afford not to. In the UK, the pool of highly educated and ambitious women is huge. So, what are we waiting for?

Anna-Sophie HartvigsenAbout the author

Anna-Sophie Hartvigsen is a bestselling author, keynote speaker and entrepreneur on a mission to close the financial gender gap. She is listed on the Forbes 30 under 30 list and has co-founded Female Invest, Europe's largest financial educator targeting women.



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Career advice for women looking to get into finance/fintech

Article by Rossana Thomas, Vice President, Product Management, Enterprise Payments Platform, Fiserv

woman in tech working on a laptop, onlineIt is an exciting time to be in the financial technology space. Now more than ever, we are witnessing a distinctive move towards a digital society, and it’s my job to help financial institutions and their customers find and establish their unique space.

The financial technology world can seem a very male dominated environment in which to work. However, we’re seeing many more women work their way up in organisations, being active members of senior management teams and sitting on various boards across the industry. With a push for diversity at all angles, and a flurry of new and exciting technologies, now is the perfect time to join this industry.

Below, are some top tips from what I have learnt over my thirty-year career, and hopefully it helps and inspires other women to be part of the dynamic financial services industry.

Step outside of your comfort zone

To me, the biggest piece of advice I can share is, don’t be afraid to go outside of your comfort zone.  That is often where the opportunity is. When looking for job opportunities, do your own investigation and research. Look for internships. Find people in this space and don’t be afraid to ask for advice (LinkedIn is your friend). You don’t always need to look for jobs related to your degree. I graduated with a liberal arts degree in psychology and I found my calling in the financial services industry. Look for jobs and opportunities that pique your interest. It’s good to remember that you may be in this career for a while, so make sure it is something you are passionate about.

Transferrable skills set you apart

Even if you are an expert in technology, you should also develop the skills needed for other business functions. For example, you may be a coder by profession with a strategic and team management role, which will require on the job learning. If you want your career to grow, become an expert in your discipline and then learn transferable skills. Skills such as leadership, business acumen and presentation abilities are as important as your core skills and will help your movement within verticals and industries.

Find a mentor

Internships and mentoring are a huge part of this industry. There are several programmes set up to help support women. Make sure you’re continually cultivating genuine relationships and build a solid network of people and good mentors across disciplines to support and guide you. These will ultimately help you succeed. For me, a good mentor is critical for career progression and success.

If you are a job seeker or someone looking to boost their career, then WeAreTechWomen has thousands of free career-related articles. From interview tips, CV advice to training and working from home, you can find all our career advice articles here